Denial of the inerrancy of the original manuscripts of the Bible

by Matt Slick

This dialogue is an excellent example of how presuppositions imposed upon the Word of God and undermine the authority and sufficiency of God's Word.

I jump into this dialogue after another person had been speaking with En_Hakkore for a while. En_Hakkore does not believe in the inerrancy of the original documents of the Old and New Testament. Yet, he affirms that Jesus Christ is God in flesh, something the New Testament clearly teaches. I believe that this is an inconsistency (not addressed in this dialogue) to believe in such a miraculous and fantastic thing based upon a document that is, basically, untrustworthy.

Matt: En, if God breathes out Scripture, is it inerrant?
En_Hakkore: If God wrote something, yes it would be inerrant. 
Matt: I didn't say write. I said breathes it out . . . through a person. En, if God inspires someone to write something, is it inerrant?
En_Hakkore: No, because I don't believe God interferes with free will and what comes out on paper has been filtered through an imperfect person
Matt: You mean God can't have someone write something without errors?
En_Hakkore: To me your question equates to will God make someone write something inerrant . . . . and my answer, as noted above, is no because I do not believe He infringes on free will
Matt: What makes you think He infringes on someone's "free will" if He inspires them? Can't God's spirit in a person work with a person's free will, clarify the truth, and bring him to freely write the truth without error?
Matt: If God inspires a person to write, "There is a God," does that mean it isn't true . . . or is it?
En_Hakkore: Your second question cannot be answered until the ramifications of your first questions are explored . . . to which I will turn.  The first issue is whether "free will" is infringed upon by the method of inspiration you propose.
Matt: Are you saying that God is incapable of overcoming a person's sin so as to inspire him to write something without error? You have to define free will.
En_Hakkore: No, I am not saying He is incapable of it, simply that He doesn't do it because He values human freedom
Matt: What makes you think he doesn't do it?  You mean He values human sinful free will? God values sinfulness?
En_Hakkore: I stated God values human freedom . . . and that is all I stated.
Matt: Where do you get that assumption??? not to mention you haven't defined free will.
En_Hakkore: I do not think He does it because I see no evidence for it.  Ask your questions one at a time and I will answer them
Matt: You don't "think he does"??? That's it?
En_Hakkore: You have the tendency to throw a whole whack of questions out at a time, I can only respond to one at a time
Matt: I am only responding to what you're saying. 
En_Hakkore: Then respond one point at a time
Matt: You are the one who is making a bunch of assumptions and basing your position on your own assumptions. Is so obvious that what you have done is subjected the Word of God to your preferences. 
Matt: I'm only exposing the weakness of your position. 
En_Hakkore: We all have assumptions,
Matt: Now, why don't you tell us what free will is?
En_Hakkore: We can resume after you're done with your declarations . . .  
Matt: I am waiting for you to tell us what free will is.
En_Hakkore: "free will" is the ability to make choices freely
Matt: Okay, and how does God inspiring a person remove a person's free will?
En_Hakkore: Because when a person writes, they are freely choosing what words to use using the cognitive skills they have and expressing their own thoughts
Matt: You are not answering my question. I'm asking you how God inspiring a person removes that person's free will?
En_Hakkore: Perhaps you could further define the method of inspiration you are presenting
Matt: I don't know what is meant--that God uses to inspire a person, but it is you who have stated that when God inspires it removes a person's free will. I'm asking you to defend your proposition. Is God capable of working with a person's free will so as to inspire it to be without error?
En_Hakkore: My proposition depends on a particular definition of inspiration . . . if you have none, I will simply use my own--at which point we will need to define that anyway
Matt: Go ahead and define it.
En_Hakkore: A writer expresses their own thoughts using their own skills . . . those skills and those thoughts are in a human flawed, to argue therefore that the end result is inerrant would necessarily mean an over
Matt: You aren't defining inspiration. What you are doing is begging the question. You are assuming what you believe to be true, to be true, without substantiating it. I have asked you to define what inspiration is. Can you do that?
En_Hakkore: . . . an overriding of that person's thoughts and skill set and the choice to use both to produce a piece of literature.
Matt: Can you verify that your definition of inspiration is correct?
En_Hakkore: That is how I understand the pro-inerrancy definition of inspiration to function . . . which is why I asked for you to clarify it from your position
Matt: The Bible says that Scripture is inspired, that is "God breathed," 2 Tim. 3:16. Do you think that what God breathed through people when they wrote the Bible contains errors in the original?
En_Hakkore: Your question assumes I accept the validity of the passage cited, however, the aboslute validity of any passage is the issue on the table . . . I therefore cannot answer the question as structured.
Matt: I didn't assume anything. I'm asking you to defend your position. But, it is basically impossible to have a rational discussion with you because if I called Scriptures, you may say that it is corrupted, untrustworthy, etc. You see, you are free to dismiss anything from the Scriptures that I would cite in support of my position.
En_Hakkore: Matt . . . don't go there.
Matt: So if I were to cite for example, 1 Sam. 10:6, "Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man. 7 And it shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires; for God is with you." 
En_Hakkore: Do not throw out "It is impossible to have a discussion".  I have no problem of you defending your position using biblical passages . . . 
Matt: Then when we see that the spirit of the Lord comes upon a person, and if they prophesy, all we can conclude is either that that Scripture is corrupted or that what a person would say under the inspiration of the spirit of the Lord can't be really trusted either. You leave no avenue of rational discussion on this. 
En_Hakkore: That is not the case . . .  
Matt: Ultimately, no matter what I offer you, you can dismiss. Okay, and tell me if 2 Tim. 3:16 is accurate or not. 2 Tim. 3:16, "All Scripture is inspired by God . . . " Is that true or not?
En_Hakkore: The issue on the table is inerrancy . . . the passage in question asserts it by way of inference, since I don't believe in inerrancy I obviously do not accept the passage . . .  
Matt: I'm asking you if the passage is valid? I'm asking you if the passage is true or not? Can you tell me whether or not that Scripture is accurate? Is 2 Tim. 3:16 true or not?
En_Hakkore: It asserts something I hold to be untrue . . . my conclusion is therefore that 2 Timothy 3:16 expresses a thought that does not correspond to reality and is therefore not true
Matt: I see, so the Bible says something that you don't believe to be true, therefore, the Bible is false here, correct? I see, so YOU are telling me that God is not capable of working with a person's free will so as to inspire it to be without error, right?
En_Hakkore: By my understanding of what inspiration entails, the affirmations concerning the inerrant end result and the value God places on human freedom, yes
Matt: Okay, let me see if I get this straight. You exalt human freedom above God's sovereignty and ability to work with and through people so as to have them write without error, you deny the Scripture says about inspiration, and you impose your preferences upon the Word of God so as to deny its inspiration. Is that correct?
En_Hakkore: We'll take one point at a time . . . "You exalt human freedom above God's sovereignty and ability to work with and through people so as to have them write without error." We'll take one point at a time . . . "You exalt human freedom above God's sovereignty and ability to work with and through people so as to have them write without error." God gave humans freedom and values it to the effect of limiting (not because He cannot do so but because He chooses to) His actions so that it does not interfere with the freedom He gifted.
Matt: Really? Well, that's a problem for me because I want to quote a Scripture to prove you incorrect. But if I quote the Scripture, all you have to do is say that it isn't true. Nevertheless, I'll quote it anyway: Prov. 21:1, "the kings heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes."
Matt: So, we have a problem. I cannot quote God's Word to you as proof that you are in error because your presupposition is that the Bible is not trustworthy, therefore, no matter what I quote from the Scriptures, you can dismiss. This is truly a problem, so, I have a different approach. You mind if I ask you yet another question?
En_Hakkore: Certainly . . .  
Matt: If God "inspires" someone to write "There is a God," is what that person writes a true and innerrant statement or false statement?
En_Hakkore: Assuming the validity of the "if" statement . . . the written statement is true and therefore, by definition, inerrant
Matt: Then it comes down to whether or not you believe that God can inspire someone or not? but, since you have defined inspiration in such a way as to deny its possibility and a person, then the statement cannot be held to be true. Don't you see that what you have done is produced a set of assumptions that cannot be falsified. This means that what you believe cannot be proven to be false.
En_Hakkore: Matt, I earlier invited you to define inspiration . . . Matt, I earlier invited you to define inspiration . . . You will never agree to the inspiration of Scripture, and you redefine inspiration in such a way, as to make it impossible for in inerrancy to be a reality for the Scriptures themselves.
Matt: And I told you that the Bible said that inspiration is to be God-breathed, 2 Tim. 3:16. 
En_Hakkore: Please do not tell me what I will or will not do, thanks
Matt: You then responded by stating it wasn't reliable (or something to that effect). So if I use the Biblical usage of the term, you deny it. What you want me to do is get into a definition war with you. But I will stick with the Scriptures. I will stick with what the Word of God says.
En_Hakkore: I asked you to define it . . . you have not yet done so. That is not a war, that is wanting to understand what your definition is
Matt: Let me ask you. Is this true? In Num. 24:2: "And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him. 3 And he took up his discourse and said, The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened; 4 The oracle of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered."
En_Hakkore: We are going off topic Imo . . . if you present 2 Timothy 3:16 as your definition, could you please expound upon it.
Matt: I am using the Scriptures to define inspiration. As I said above, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance what He had said. This means that Jesus Himself stated what the Holy Spirit would do, and the logical implication is that it would be without error. Do you believe what Jesus said in this case, or was Jesus wrong?
En_Hakkore: May we confine ourselves to exploring the methodology of inspiration before venturing into whether I accept assertion x from the inspired book in question?   As I said, I have no problem with you using the Bible to define your methodology . . . but let's not venture farther ahead than understanding inspiration first
Matt: No, you are missing the point. Can you please respond to what I'm saying here? I repeat: I am using the Scriptures to define inspiration. As I said above, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance what He had said. This means that Jesus Himself stated what the Holy Spirit would do, and the logical implication is that it would be without error. Do you believe what Jesus said in this case, or was Jesus wrong?
En_Hakkore: I don't see that I am missing the point . . . at least the point where I am at, which is trying to understand *first* how you propose inspiration occurs
Matt: I have already told you that I cannot tell you "how" inspiration occurs because the Bible does not tell us the "how" . . . So, you are asking a question that I cannot answer. But, I have quoted Jesus Himself who said that the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance what He had said to the disciples. The disciples wrote this down. Now, were the disciples correct or not when they wrote this?  Or, were they in error because God's sovereignty and omnipotence do not override their "free will"? If you say that God can't do this, you limit God Biblically . . . . . but, that is an irrelevant comment for me to make because you really don't believe in the Bible. If you say that God can do this, then you lose your position. So, the only options I see for you is that you can forfeit your position and admit it is untenable and nonfalsifiable (cannot be proven to be false) or state that God is able to inspire people and that the disciples accurately recorded what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit bringing to the remembrance what He said.
En_Hakkore: Clearly a false dichotomy . . . And premature at this stage in the discussion . . .  
Matt: No, it is not a false dichotomy. I am now trying to set you against the words of Christ Himself in order to expose your position. Is what Jesus said to the disciples as recorded by the disciples accurate or not?
En_Hakkore: My position is one of biblical errancy . . . . therefore I can--as you already pointed out--dismiss what is written as inaccurate without being incoherent with my position
Matt: I think that you are being very consistent with your position . . . . by saying that what Jesus said was wrong . . .  
En_Hakkore: Do not, however, conclude from that I simply do so for no good reason.  I did not say that, Matt.
Matt: What this comes down to is an issue of your presuppositions. It is impossible for me to demonstrate that you are incorrect. Your position is nonfalsifiable. As I've said before, it cannot be proven to be false. So I would like to ask you now, what would be necessary in order to demonstrate your position was incorrect? I'm trying to see if your position is falsifiable. The reason is that generally, positions that are nonfalsifiable, do not rest in reality or rationality.
En_Hakkore: Matt, your position--arguing circularly using the Bible--is equally nonfalsifiable Imo . . . Turning my attention to your question . . .  
Matt: If I said that there was a spaceship on the other side of the Hale-Bopp comet, you could not prove it true or false. There is no way to see or not see. Your position is nonfalsifiable. And I have already demonstrated that no matter what I say to you, I cannot prove you wrong because your presuppositions leave no room whatsoever to be proven wrong. Therefore, I conclude that your position is irrational.
En_Hakkore: All that is necessary for one to do to demonstrate my position incorrect would be to show me where it does not correspond to reality.
Matt: My position is irrational position because it is based upon the ability of God to work in people to make truth statements. What I have shown is that you deny the words of Christ as recorded in the Bible.
En_Hakkore: Actually, you haven't shown that because I did not say that.   I inferred that I could possibly do so and remain consistent within my position
Matt: Well then tell me and let's get settled right now: are the words in John 14:26 and 15:26 true or not? John 14:26, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."
Matt: John 15:26, "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me."
En_Hakkore: I would say that those passages as with any quotation of Jesus' in the NT--interpretation aside--are a paraphrase of what Jesus said to His disciples.
Matt: I didn't ask you if they were a paraphrase. I asked you if they were true or not. You will not answer, and it is obvious why you will not. I firmly believe that if you say it is false, you risk saying that Jesus Himself as false. This would be very dangerous for you to do since you claim to follow Him and claim to be a Christian. This is why you mention "paraphrase." So, is the paraphrase true or false?
Matt: In logic, the law of excluded middle says that a statement is either true or false. Is what is recorded of Jesus statement true or false?
En_Hakkore: I would say the paraphrase rings true . . . that is the best one can logically say since any paraphrase is only as true (accurate) as it corresponds to what was actually said, which we do not know since
Matt: So you cannot tell me if it is true or false? All you offer me is ambiguity and vague answers in order to maintain your position.
En_Hakkore: I cannot logically say whether a paraphrase--which by very definition is a vague recollection of what someone said--is true or false
Matt: You don't know what the original was, so you don't know if it is a paraphrase or not. Furthermore, if it is a paraphrase of what Jesus said that they would accurately be caused to remember what He said by the Holy Spirit, you are further stuck because even the "paraphrase" works against your position.
En_Hakkore: One can demonstrate that Jesus' words are paraphrases my comparing parallel sections and noting that they do not read word for word.  Furthermore, I am not stuck because I have not expounded on the passage in question nor would I claim that the Holy Spirit would bring remembrance to someone in an inerrant manner.
Matt: Look, I noticed that you are not seriously answering my questions. You offer me--as I have already said--ambivalent answers. What I have done is brought you to the point of demonstrating that your position is nonfalsifiable, ambivalent, subjective, and based upon presuppositions that you cannot validate. When I ask you about the validity of Christ's words, you say they "ring" of truth and that they are a "paraphrase." But when I show you that even the paraphrase works against your position, you won't admit you have a problem. We can go no further.
En_Hakkore: Matt, I could do likewise if that were my reason for being here by showing your circular reasoning . . . however, I am not here to prove you wrong but to learn and approach this rationally. You have not shown the things you have claimed . . . i.e, . . . that paraphrase works against me
Matt: I have shown that your position is irrational, your argumentation is inconsistent, you offer nothing but subjectivity and that your opinions imposed upon the Word of God.
En_Hakkore: My argumentation has not been inconsistent at all.  Nor have you demonstrated irrationality.  I have company and I need to go.  I'll be posting this dialogue on carm since it was done in public.  Excellent dialogue on presuppositions.
En_Hakkore: I have no problem with you doing so . . . I have kept a copy for myself
Matt: Fine.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.